The Early History
of the 240 Z
a brief overview,
by Carl Beck, IZCC # 260
(last update: 10 June 2001)
About This Summary:
I have tried to build a brief overview of the early history of the Datsun 240 Z. An overview if you will, of the significant events and people involved during the very early days of Z Car History.
Many people have written books covering the History of the Z Car, all of which contain great information and some of which contain common misinformation and a few myths. I will neither attempt to duplicate their efforts nor correct all the mistakes and misconceptions here. Rather, I will build what I believe is a good summary of correct information, using the hyper-link capabilities offered by this media (the World Wide Web).
Throughout the following overview, I will link additional details, interesting side discussions or alternative views, related to this subject area. So you can decide if you want to read the entire summary first, and then go back to revisit the individual details, or read them as you go along.
I will be looking for you to send in additional facts, corrections and suggestions that can be incorporated over time.
The Early History Of The DATSUN 240 Z
A few words about the DATSUN and NISSAN Names & Corporations first:
In order to understand the over-all concepts behind the "Z" Car...one needs to have some knowledge of the history of the DATSUN and NISSAN names, as well as the Corporations that they represent, then and now.
In 1912 a young man by the name of Masujiro Hashimoto founded the Kwaishinsha Motor Car Company, and produced an automobile called the DAT. Each letter of DAT was the first initial of a man's family name; i.e., "D" was for Kenjoro Den, "A" was for Rokuro Aoyama, and the "T" was for Meitaro Takeuchi. These three men financed Masujiro Hashimoto when he started his automobile manufacturing company, and the DAT name was given to the cars produced there in honor these financiers.
A merger between Kwaishinsha Motors and Jidosha Seizo took place in 1926. The new company was named "DAT Jidosha Seizo Company Limited; and it continued to produce the DAT line of cars.
In 1930 a reorganization took place and the Directors decided a new name was needed for their cars; the name DATSON was chosen, being "the son of DAT". The spelling of the name was later changed to DATSUN.
In 1931 the assets and shares of the DAT Jidosha Seizo company were acquired by THE TOBATA IMONO COMPANY (a foundry company). Thus making it a division of Tobata Imono. Two years later it was separated from the parent company and established as an independent company named Jidosha Seizo Kabushiki Kaisha, and moved to a new 32 acre site at Yokohama. Funding for the new firm came from a holding company managed by Yoshisuke Ayukawa (the owner of TOBATA IMONO), and that holding company was named Nihon Sagyo. That holding company was already known to the financial community as "Ni-San"
(ed. stock exchange listing letters).
In May of 1934 the name of the now independent auto company, was changed to NISSAN MOTOR COMPANY LIMITED.
Throughout the mergers and acquisitions the name of the car remained DATSUN. One of the major benefits that the merger with Tobata Imono yielded was the fact that they brought with them needed cash-flow, derived from contracts from FORD and CHEVROLET for the production of spare parts!
It is also significant to note here that the first exports of automobiles by NISSAN were to Australia in 1935.
Another consideration to always keep in mind when thinking about Nissan Motors Ltd. is the fact that the company had to be completely rebuilt as an automotive company after World War II. This was a long and difficult path for Nissan. First they rebuilt their Manufacturing and Production facilities and capabilities, then they reestablished their design and design engineering capabilities. The "Z" Car was a wake-up call to the rest of the automotive world that NISSAN was fully back in the game.
Datsun In World Class Competition / Enter Mr. Yutaka Katayama:
In 1957 a young marketing manager by the name of Yutaka Katayama convinced NISSAN Corporate Management that a racing or competition program would be a good way to build name recognition around the world for Nissan Motors and their line of Datsun automobiles. (Note - he convinced Corporate Management - after his direct chain of management had turned the idea down as being too risky. This becomes important to know, later in the life of Nissan and Mr. Katayama).
He was allowed to enter a couple of cars in the "1958 Around Australia Mobilgas Trial". A grueling Pro-Rally tour around Australia. If Datsun did not do well, there would be no harm done, as the rally was considered to be very hard on cars, and very
few competitors finished each year. If on the other hand Datsun did show well, the publicity would be world wide and would improve the image of the Datsun Automobiles and the NISSAN Corporation that produced them. So the chance was taken.
Mr. Katayama was assigned as Team Manager, and given drivers: Mr. K. Okuyama, Mr. Y. Namba, Mr. Y. Oya and Mr. Y. Minawa. At that time they knew they were off to the races, but we know they were off to the history books as well!
DATSUN WON the 1958 Around Australia Mobilgas Trial, Mr. Katayama's career was advanced, and his association with DATSUN COMPETITION was firmly established.
Coming To America!
Being somewhat threatened, by this young upcoming and globe trotting marketing manager, the executives in charge of Mr. katayama's career, within NISSAN MOTORS of JAPAN at that time, gave the young Mr. Katayama an assignment that they felt would keep him out of the corporate lime light, and which had a high potential for failure... (he had after all taken his ideas around them to their boss once and that posed a risk for them and their idea's)
In 1960 they made
him the Datsun Marketing Manager for North America. Not wanting
to bet the NISSAN name on a very risky venture... (who in North
America shortly after WW-II would want to buy a car from Japan
after all?) ...they decided to use the name DATSUN on all cars
and trucks sold in North America.
Mr. Katayama was glad to return to the U.S. A. as DATSUN Marketing
Manager For North America. Having briefly attended college here, he knew
what his American Customers wanted or expected in their cars.
Mr. Katayama was also aware of the unique requirements placed
on automobiles by the expansive landscape of North American and
the high speed Federal Highway System that crisscrossed it.
With this customer knowledge, he began to lobby the Corporate
fathers in Japan, for cars specifically designed for and built
for this market. (Something no other foreign manufacturer was
willing to do, or was capable of understanding at that time). He also wanted to assure that DATSUN Customers received the parts and service they deserved.
The Z Car Is Conceived!
Datsun had been building affordable and "sporty " cars since its beginning, however the early 60's brought with them the first true Sports Cars from Datsun. Introduced at the Tokyo Motor Show, Nissan released its first version of a modern two passenger, open roadster, the Datsun Fairlady 1500 in 1961.
The Fairlady 1500 was evolved over the following decade, turning into the Datsun 1600 Sports, and the Datsun 2000 Roadsters of the late 60's. By the late 60's the 1600 and 2000 had achieved some sales success in the U.S. and were on a par with the MG's and Triumphs of the day. They were however technologically behind the times, when compared to the 1963 Corvettes, Jag XKEs and 1964 Porsche 911's .
It was during this time ('61/'62) that NISSAN began to develop the
idea of building a sports car that would enhance its image, and
move it slightly upscale in the growing Sports Car market.
Enter Mr. Albrecht Graf von Goertz:
Mr. Goertz was a German born, U.S. Citizen, who had established himself as an Industrial Designer, with some automotive design experience. Mr. Goertz worked on the 1953 Studebaker Starline, then with BMW where he contributed the design of the BMW 503 & 507. Next according to Mr. Goertz, he worked with the Porsche team on the 911.
According to Mr. Goertz, he offered his services as an automotive
design consultant to, and was in turn contracted by, NISSAN MOTORS
OF JAPAN in 1963. His first assignment at NISSAN was to work on
a Sports Coupe based on the Fairlady 1600 chassis. The project had been started,
and it was given the model designation of CSP-311 and named the Silivia 1600 Sports Coupe. Introduced at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1964. It was also shown at the New York Motor Show in 1965. (Ed. Note - the Silivia Sports Coupe
was shown once in the USA and shipped back to Japan, never to be imported into the North American market. Approximately 49 Silvia's made their way to Australia out of the 554 produced). It was not well received at the Exhibition by the US automotive press).
Mr. Goertz was then assigned to consult with a NISSAN team working on a sports car development project. Nissan had a joint development agreement with Yamaha on this project. Yamaha was to develop the engine for the car as well as build the full size metal prototype.
The Nissan team consisted of four designers and clay modelers who spoke very little English. One person specifically mentioned by Mr. Goertz was Mr. Kimura, who spoke a little English, and whom keep Dr. Goertz informed about the status of the car after Mr. Goertz left NISSAN at the end of 1964.
When Yamaha's efforts, related to the design of a 2.0 Liter engine for this car did not meet NISSAN's expectation, the project as shelved at NISSAN.
A metal prototype of that design was built by Yamaha. Mr. Goertz
and Yamaha took the project to Toyota, and the result was the
building of the Toyota 2000GT.
Mr. Goertz is, I believe, properly credited with helping the NISSAN
design team establish new and improved design methods and techniques. He did show Nissan how to build and use three dimensional clay models to better visualize their work. (Given
his statements on the subject - see his words to the Z Car Register
in England in 1995.)
It would also seem reasonable to state that the Toyota 2000GT
was in fact closer to the automotive design and styling that Mr.
Goertz had a more direct influence in creating, than that of the
Z Car. While the more abstract concepts of a two passenger
Sports/GT are shared by the Z Car and the Toyota 2000GT, the styling
and execution of the two projects were quite different indeed.
Editors judgment - If the Goertz design had been produced by
NISSAN, it would have been as big a flop as the Toyota 2000GT
was from a marketing perspective. Mr. Goertz could therefore hardly be considered the " designer of the original Z Car"... as wrongly attributed to him by "Car
and Driver Mag". in 1978. However he did work as an automotive
design consultant with an earlier NISSAN design team.
Re-enter Mr. Yutaka Katayama:
During the time between 1965 and 1968 Mr. Katayama, now President of Nissan Motors of USA, worked closely with the designers, stylists and engineers at NISSAN MOTORS Ltd. OF JAPAN, championing the concepts and design criteria for cars aimed at the North American market , and lobbied for the resurrection of the Sports/GT design project within NISSAN.
Toyota released their 2000GT in 1965 and that set the stage for a reply from NISSAN. So in late 1965 and a new design team was being formed within NISSAN MOTORS Ltd. to work on a new Sports/GT Design Project aimed squarely at the USA.
Working for Mr. Tiichi Hara (the General Manager of Planning Dept. #2) and leading this new design team was Mr. Yoshihiko Matsuo (as Chief Designer). Mr. Tiichi Hara (who had total responsibility for the design and production aspects of the project) gave the official project file - started when the new design project was started - the designation "Nissan Design - Project Z", as all previous letters had been used. (the Goertz prototype was designated for example the "A550-X Project" ).
Mr. K. believed that a world class Sports/GT model would enhance the image of DATSUN in the U.S., and he wanted one aimed specifically at the U.S. Market. Youthful buyers, living in a country three thousand miles wide, and crisscrossed by high speed super-highways. Mr. Katayama freely admits that he loved the flowing body lines of the Jaguar XKE, and made that clear to the NISSAN design team.
1967 So Who Really Created The 1970 Datsun 240Z...
A team of Nissan Managers, Designers, Stylists and Engineers, working over a period of years, evolved the initial concept car from 1965 into the flowing form that wraps the performance platform of the 1970 Z Car.
The Nissan Design Team formed fully staffed by 1966 was under the management control of Mr. Kazumi Yotsurnoto. The team that really produced the Z Car that we know today consisted of:
- Mr. Yoshihiko Matsuo (Chief Designer)
- Mr. Sue Chiba (Interior Design)
- Mr. Akio Yoshoda (Exterior Design)
- Mr. Hidemi Kamahara and Mr. Tsuneo Benitani (for engineering under the skin)
- Mr. Eiichi Oiwa and Mr. Kiichi Nishikawa (assistants)
- Mr. Tiichi Hara (responsible for total process of making Z Car
and sole power to promote Z Car to come out of factory)
A design and finished product which is today recognized as a "
The above Team and NISSAN Management should be given great credit for maintaining the Design Integrity of the car while getting it through the production process. This is not the usual case (as can today be seen in the Porsche Boxter )
October 1969 - Production Starts...
The production lines started producing Z Cars at their Shatai factory in Tokyo Japan, the first part of October 1969. Production lines were started very slowly to test and establish the manufacturing process, and to train the workers. The first few cars produced during this start-up phase are very seldom delivered for sale to the public. Rather, they may be used for the necessary crash tests and certification processes required by the U. S. Federal Government or assembled and disassembled for quality inspections, then reassembled again. Other very early production cars would start the assembly process, only to be side tracked for correction of some quality or assembly defect, then once corrected, they were put back onto the assembly line for final assembly. For this reason some very early production cars have final dates of manufacture a month or two later than one would expect and engine serial numbers that would appear to be out of sequence with the chassis serial numbers.
Production in 1969 included chassis produced for both the Datsun 240Z - that is, the HLS30 cars and the Fairlady Z models S30 and S30S. Additionally a few Fairlady Z - 432's were produced - model S30SP. Production of the Right Hand Drive 240Z's, the HS30 models, started in Jan. of 1970.
As the story goes, and I have heard it from several people, Z Cars #00001, 00002, 00003, 00004 and possibly #00005 were "production mules" and were destroyed at the factory. Thus they were never delivered to the U.S. I have not received any confirmation of this from NISSAN of JAPAN however.
Z Cars #00006, 00007, and 00008 were brought into the US in early Dec., 1969. They made the rounds of the National and International Auto Shows, were used for Photo. Op.'s by the major car magazines, then given to the Race Teams. These cars were never sold to the public. #00006 and 00008 are still being raced to this date in Vintage Racing Series here in the U.S.A.
It is rumored that Z Cars #00009 through #00015 were delivered to Canada for cold weather testing by Nissan Canada. Then stored away, never to be sold to the public.(again not confirmed as of this date)
Z Car HLS30 00016 is the first Datsun 240Z sold to the public here in the U.S.A.. It is still owned by a private owner in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.